Curtain Calls

By | 2006-06-22T09:00:00-04:00 June 22nd, 2006|Entertainment|

Review: ‘Additional Particulars’

Comedy with heart opens at Williamston

I suspect that for the most part, the employees we encounter at our local Farmer Jack and Dollar General stores are simply nameless, faceless people we could never pick out of a police line-up if our lives depended on it. If we even notice them, it’s because they pointed to which aisle rutabagas can be found, bagged our purchases or rang up our order. Rarely – if ever – do we give them or their coworkers any additional thought.
Not playwright Ed Simpson. In his laugh-filled comedy “Additional Particulars,” the thoroughly enjoyable premiere production of the Williamston Theatre, Simpson reveals a simple truth that most of us never consider: that there are passions and disappointments, loves and losses attached to every name and face we briefly encounter in the not always exciting world of retail.
In act one we meet Glenda Balitski, an attractive, yet mousey employee in the house wares department of the Save-a-Bundle Discount Mart. Settling in for another quiet and lonely night at home, Glenda is stunned by the unexpected arrival of the store’s eager, by-the-book but often ignored assistant manager, Warren Grippo. He’s supposedly there to let her know she’s been named Employee of the Month, but the real purpose of his visit could risk violating the company’s strict sexual harassment policy.
After intermission we catch Kenny Hinkle and the infamous Raymond Fetterman – briefly discussed earlier by Warren and Glenda – in the Save-a-Bundle storage room having lunch. Once a star performer, Raymond now sees nefarious purposes behind every order issued by “the suits” – and he particularly resents Warren. Kenny, on the other hand, is a seemingly simple, easy-going man who does what he’s told without question. But what bubbles beneath each man’s exterior surprises them both!
Staging a character-driven comedy that relies primarily on dialogue rather than action requires a skilled director who knows how to mine the words and subtext of the script for every conceivable nuance. It also requires the talent of an experienced professional who understands the importance of pacing, as well as how to motivate his actors to dig deeply into their characters’ psyche to bring to the surface every shade of their personality. Williamston Theatre’s Artistic Director Tony Caselli does that and more with this production. A recent co-winner of the Detroit Free Press Theater Award for Best Director and two-time 2006 Wilde Awards nominee, this young director is one of the top talents in Michigan, and his work with this production bodes well for his new theater’s future.
His eye for talent is apparent, as well.
Emily Sutton-Smith and Aaron T. Moore are perfectly matched as the lost souls who finally find the one thing that’s been missing from their quiet lives. Watching Warren’s face light up as he nervously looks into Glenda’s hopeful eyes is priceless, and the duo’s timing as they complete each other’s thoughts and sentences is impeccable.
Equally powerful is Dennis North who fills Raymond with a controlled, yet simmering rage that’s ready to explode. And Brian Thibault contrasts him well as his bemused, but secretly guilt-ridden coworker.
Although the newly refurbished former storefront still has work to be done, Caselli and set designer Daniel C. Walker use the tight performance space well. And now one wonders just what magic awaits us in Michigan’s newest professional theater!
“Additional Particulars” runs Thu.-Sun. at Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam, Williamston, through July 16. Tickets: $15-$22. For information: 517-655-7469 or http://www.williamstontheatre.org
The Bottom Line: The Williamston Theatre is off to a good start doing for small town Williamston what the Purple Rose did for Chelsea!

Review: ‘The All Night Strut!’

Sizzlin’ ‘Strut’ steams up stage

If the powers-that-be at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater had any doubts about staging their first summer production in two decades, the loud and heartfelt audience response to last Saturday night’s “The All Night Strut!” should have them breathing a bit easier.
But applause and cheers don’t put money in the bank, of course, so what the theater REALLY needs are paying customers in the seats – and plenty of them. However, I suspect that won’t be a problem, since discussions I overheard after the show lead me to believe that word-of-mouth – and repeat business – will bring a smile to Artistic Director Kristine Thatcher’s face by as soon as this coming weekend.
That’s because “The All Night Strut!” is a delightful, toe-tappin’ revue that celebrates the memorable Big Band music that made the 1930s and ’40s swing. You don’t have to be from that era to enjoy this production, however, as director/choreographer Lance Roberts and music director John Dale Smith have put together a slick, high energy evening of entertainment that’s jammed with plenty of high notes – courtesy of the always delightful Jennifer Joan Joy – and deep, deep lows – provided by handsome and talented baritone Ivan Griffin – with Jason Richards and Sharriese Hamilton eagerly filling in the rest.
Even its encore sizzles – and keeps the entire audience glued to the seats long after the actors have left the stage!
The opening number, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” sets the tone for the entire show, as it takes only seconds to fall in love with the beautiful voices that blend and compliment each other so perfectly. However, the show doesn’t really kick in to high gear until the fourth number, “In the Mood,” that grabs the audience with its impressive choreography and never lets go.
Each of the performers has special moments to shine, but it’s Richards – with his excellent voice and smooth moves – who especially commands notice.
Equally impressive are Smith (piano), Justin Valla (bass) and Jonathan Smith (percussion) who make beautiful music together.
Likewise, all technical aspects of the show are impeccable and perfectly executed.
So if you’re looking for some sizzlin’ summertime fun, strut on over to the BoarsHead. Kristine Thatcher will thank you for it – and you’ll have one heck of a memorable time!
“The All Night Strut” runs Wed.-Sun. at the BoarsHead Theatre, 425 S. Grand, Lansing, through July 9. Tickets: $25-$40. For information: 517-484-7805 or http://www.boarshead.org
The Bottom Line: It’s a hot, swingin’ time this summer at Lansing’s BoarsHead Theater!

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